With today’s blog entry, I’m starting a series of reminiscences, based on some prompts I’ve bene reading.
I grew up singing in church. That much I know for certain.
My mother couldn’t carry a tune if she tried. My father sang in key, but when notes got too high, he’d plop down an octave. His singing range was limited. His rhythm, however, was flawless, as befits someone who played drums growing up.
I remember going to the organ console after church services, and watching the organist. This would have been at Calvary Baptist in Columbia, and then at Fifth Street Baptist in Hannibal. At some point in Hannibal, I got to push the cancel button after the postlude was complete, and watch all those pistons return to their off position.
In Hannibal, my music teacher was a Mrs. Froman. Music classes at Mark Twain Elementary were held in the homeroom classroom, rather than a separate music classroom.
We moved to Hannibal as I started first grade. At some subsequent point, my parents gifted me with a Magnus chord organ. I was probably in second grade. I taught myself how to play “Long, long ago.” This was my first keyboard experience that I can remember.
But G-ma Blocher owned a massive old upright grand piano, and I probably banged on that at some point.
There was also most likely children’s choir at church, but I have no clear memory.
We moved to Lee’s Summit as I started the last quarter of fourth grade. There I found
- Mrs. Verna Boten (now Dr. Verna Brummett), the music teacher at Pleasant Lea Elementary School. She had her own classroom! And she noticed my musical ability right away.
- Vance Riffie, who was not only the high school choral teacher, but also Minister of Music at First Baptist Church, who also led the 4th/5th/6th-grade children’s choir. And I learned from him how to read music on the staff, and how pitches relate to one another.
- And beginning a few months later in fifth grade, the initial ability to play a brass instrument, initially cornet, and then French horn. Russ Berlin was the instrumental band director at Pleasant Lea.
These are my earliest musical memories.
Piano lessons came later, starting in 6th or 7th grade.
I grew up singing. And I grew up staring at keyboard instruments until I was old enough to play them, and my parents had enough money to provide for lessons.
By the way, Mr. Riffie is long gone. Dr. Brummett and Mr. Berlin are still around, and I see Russ occasionally at MMEA. Both attended my Hall of Fame induction five years ago.